Ben Shapiro’s “Primetime Propaganda” is a book that perfectly epitomizes the rightist paranoia about liberal bogeymen under our beds, in our closets, and, most of all, on our TV sets. The book is promoted as…
“The inside story of how the most powerful medium of mass communication in human history has become a propaganda tool for the Left.”
In the book published by Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins, Shapiro claims to have interviewed Hollywood’s most important power players and gotten them to admit that they have been secretly inserting their subversive messages into popular programs for decades. But his work is decidedly one-sided and he takes great pride in the obvious. For instance. the revelation that MASH had an anti-war theme is not exactly earth-shattering and it hardly exposes a liberal conspiracy. However, he presents it as a triumph of investigative journalism.
In a defensive posting on Andrew Breitbart’s BigJournalism, Shapiro complains about the criticism his book has received. He is dismayed that critics allegedly focused on the parts referencing Sesame Street, but then proceeds to bash Sesame Street for the remainder of the posting.
According to his own defense, Sesame Street is awash in propaganda. For instance, they broadcast segments teaching kids about divorce. He apparently thinks that subject has no relevance to kids today. The program also aired segments after 9/11 about peaceful conflict resolution. Shapiro asserts that these were designed to steer kids away from retaliating against terrorists, when the more likely purpose was to illustrate how wrong the actions of the terrorists were. Then Shapiro whines about everything from teaching kids not to beat up other kids of different cultures, to using gender-neutral language like firefighter or flight attendant. If that is evidence of leftist indoctrination, then Shapiro is implying that rightists support cross-cultural fights amongst children.
What doesn’t seem to be acknowledged in Shapiro’s book is that the vast majority of television programs in the period of time his research encompasses were far from being dogmatically left-wing. There were more police dramas and westerns than any other genre of program. Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and The Waltons, or Dragnet, Magnum P.I., and 24, were not exactly peddling liberal doctrine. Nor were the iconic sitcoms from Andy Griffith, The Golden Girls, or Frasier. Why didn’t Shapiro interview people from those shows to ascertain whether they were planting conservative opinions in their programs?
Even worse, Shapiro is attempting to position this book as a scholarly investigation into historical television practices and philosophies. But he provides no historical context whatsoever to support his obviously predetermined conclusions. He lumps shows like The Partridge Family, Happy Days, and Family Ties, into the liberal cabal that “took over your TV,” but fails to note that those years were mostly dominated by Republican presidents and conservative culture. It was the heart of the era that saw the rise of the Reagan Revolution, the Moral Majority, and the Christian Coalition. If the purpose of these pinko TV executives was to reshape America in their leftist image, they failed miserably. Yet Shapiro insists that this was their purpose and that they succeeded in turning America into a socialist state.
For the record, Shapiro is the Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an ultra-conservative organization whose mission is to “combat the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values and disarm this country.” Shapiro was interviewed about the book by Horowitz’s Front Page Magazine who called him “a courageous defender of our civilization – and such a brave soldier on the frontlines in our culture war.”
Shapiro’s previous books were Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth, and Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism Is Corrupting Our Future. He recently penned an article for CNSNews, a division of the rabidly right-wing Media Research Center, wherein he castigated Jews who support President Obama as…
“Jews in name only. They eat bagels and lox; they watch ‘Schindler’s List’; they visit temple on Yom Kippur – sometimes. But they do not care about Israel. Or if they do, they care about it less than abortion, gay marriage and global warming.”
That exclusionary and insulting diatribe suggests that the Jews are such a shallow people that they are incapable of caring about more than one thing at a time, particularly if it’s about the rights and well being of others. And Shapiro neglects to disclose who designated him as the Jewish certification authority.
Shapiro is a part of the conservative campaign to assault the media and popular culture, and he is tightly integrated with the leaders of that campaign. David Horowitz’s Freedom Center began as the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in 1988 to “establish a conservative presence in Hollywood.” Andrew Breitbart, who runs both the BigJournalism and BigHollywood blogs, wrote in his recent autobiographical book, “Righteous Indignation,” that…
“The biggest point I wanted to make was one I’m still making: Hollywood is more important than Washington. It can’t be overstated how important this message is: the pop culture matters.”
This is a coordinated attack on the creative community that has long been a target of the right-wing martinets of virtue. They demonstrated their hostility for the arts when they orchestrated congressional hearings and blacklists against Hollywood in the 1940’s and 1950s. And they are demonstrating it today as they seek to defund public radio and television, as well as arts institutions like the National Endowment for the Arts. Their censorious mission is reflected in attacks on movies like Avatar and rappers like Common. It is ingrained in the works of the secret society of Hollywood conservatives, the Friends of Abe. They recognize the power in creative expression and they are determined to either hijack it or shut it down. That’s why Shapiro et al are so adamant about silencing overt propaganda like this alarming segment from Sesame Street that he explicitly rebuked for advancing a gay/liberal agenda:
Do you feel gayer or more liberal yet? Shapiro’s new book appears to be the literary equivalent of James O’Keefe’s dishonest video ambushes. Shapiro taped conversations with his subjects and is releasing them without having obtained permission to do so. Of course, he certainly won’t release any tapes that exhibit ideological fairness or otherwise don’t fit his agenda. And, as noted above, we won’t be seeing any comments from producers of the far more numerous conservative-themed programs that reveal their own biases. There is no way of knowing whether the tapes were edited in misleading ways, as the right is prone to doing – particularly the Breitbart right. And notice to whom Shapiro ran first to whine about being criticized.
Expect to see Shapiro making the Fox News rounds with an already announced appearance on Sean Hannity’s show. Watch as he shamelessly bashes the broader media even as he exploits it. And sadly, like a victim of spousal abuse, the media will forgive him and beg him not to go. His Murdoch-published book will get plenty of play from Fox News, the rightist blogosphere, and conservative talk radio as he laments the imagined prevalence of left-wing media. How ironic.